When John saw Jesus, he fell at his feet “as though dead.” This was the same John who leaned back against Jesus to ask him a question (John 13:25). This is the same John who stood at the foot of the cross, staring up at the crucified Jesus (John 19:26).
John knew Jesus very well. He’d seen Jesus do many things. And in this moment, he fell at Jesus’ feet “as though dead.”
What is it about the presence of God in his glory that affects people in this way? If you search through the Bible for moments when people entered into God’s presence or saw his glory, you will find people who simply fell apart.
For John, the appearance of Christ in his glory put him on the ground. Death comes when people meet God.
The people of Israel knew this. More than a thousand years earlier, they knew. “For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, we shall die. For who is there of all flesh, that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of fire as we have, and has still lived?” (Deuteronomy 5:25).
Be warned: To come into God’s presence is to die. John dropped to the ground as though dead. We are a delicate, sinful kind of creation. We are breakable. God’s glory is too much for us. John demonstrated this.
What brings out your humility? Think back on a big mistake you have made in life. Now think back on another. And then another. And then another. I hope this is relatively easy for you, that you have been introspective enough over the years to recognize your own sinfulness.
With just a handful of those sins in your mind, how do you feel? Probably pretty small. Now imagine coming into the presence of the One who is unfathomably kind and loving to you and who has been literally broken because of those very sins you’ve committed. How small do you feel now?
Multiply that feeling you have mustered up by your imagination by about a billion – because if we really were to come into God’s presence, the feeling might be something like that. And that’s why John fell down as though he were a dead man.
Jesus, of course, reached down with his right hand and touched John. You might have noticed Jesus let go of the “seven stars” of the “angels of the seven churches” in order to reassure John. I don’t know whether there’s any theological significance to this, but it caught my attention!
In the midst of our death, Jesus speaks life. “Fear not …”
Jesus is “the first and the last.” He was present before creation came into existence, and he will be present after it is swept away. Jesus is our “first” and “last.” To grab hold of Jesus is to grab hold of one who has no beginning or end.
Jesus is the one we ought to seek. Jesus is the one we ought to live to please. Perhaps we ought to keep in mind what it might be like to come into his presence. Live in humility. Live for him.